April 6, 2015

Persons and Events of Holy Week

By Fr. Vasilios Kalliakmanis

1) Holy Week may have the same number of days as other weeks of the year, but the events presented before us during Holy Week are wonderful and great.

The "hosanna" of Palm Sunday, the "crucify, crucify Him" of Holy Thursday, the disciple's betrayal, the thief's repentance and the centurion's confession reveal the fickleness of humanity as well as the longing for redemption.

2) Also the washing of the feet with the Sacred Basin, the prayer at the Garden of Gethsemane, the "It is finished" and the whole body burial show the incomprehensible emptying and divine condescension of the Son and Word of God. The righteous of the Old Testament, who are included in the plan of the divine economy for the salvation of the human race, foreshadow the events of the Passion. Sinners repent and are saved. Disciples abandon their Teacher. Fearless women are at the foot of the Cross and subsequently become preachers of the Resurrection.

3) But let us start at the beginning: "On Holy and Great Monday we commemorate the blessed Joseph the All-Comely," says the Synaxarion. Joseph may not have heard the sweetly-sounding message of having love for one's enemies, he may not have known up close the gladsome face of the Bridegroom of the Church, which inspires ministry, sacrifice and honor, and he may have lived hundreds of years before Him, but none of these things prevented him from becoming a man of God, an evangelist before the gospel, wise in foolish times, an obedient disciple before the appearance of the Teacher.

4) Besides Joseph the All-Comely who prefigures Christ, the Church brings forward the much-suffering Job, who endured without complaint his sufferings and painful illness, and arrived at the true knowledge of God. It is worth mentioning that as a father, seeing his children drinking and getting drunk "daily", he would "make arrangements for them to be purified". He would offer a sacrifice for them in order to attract the mercy of God, since perhaps his children may have blasphemed God when they were drunk. Job washes away the sins of his children, just like the Lord took the burden of the sins of the entire world upon Himself.

5) "On Holy and Great Wednesday, the Divine Fathers decreed that we should commemorate the harlot who anointed the Lord with myrrh, because this took place shortly before His saving Passion." This woman is a model of a humble heart, and she opens the window of hope to those who are desperate and sunk in sin. And just as she shows her great gratitude, so also are her many sins forgiven. The sighs for her former puddled life and her hot tears attracted the grace of the Lord and she was redeemed.

6) Following this, on Holy Thursday we have the Great Basin, the Secret Supper, the supernatural prayer and the betrayal. And while the Teacher secretly teaches the disciples the mystery of His Passion, Judas contemplates his betrayal. While Christ "wrapped a towel around His waist" to wash His disciples' feet, teaching them a lesson of ministry and humility, they have a disagreement as to who is to be the first leader. While He anxiously prays in the Garden of Olives, His closest disciples are found sleeping.

7) And here perhaps is one of the most important messages of Holy Week. Christ is voluntarily journeying to the Cross for the entire world and Christians remain unmoved. He invites us to spiritually focus, and we do not have a "wedding garment". But the experience of these holy events with a pure heart will bring inner peace and create brotherly love. Our journey together with Christ to His Passion precedes our sharing in the joy of His Resurrection.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.